ASBESTOS campaigners in South Tyneside today welcomed a major compensation ‘victory’ for victims of the deadly dust.
Judges at the Supreme Court yesterday ruled that insurance liability was triggered when employees were exposed to asbestos dust – not when symptoms of mesothelioma emerged.
Anne Craig, from Hebburn, an official of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, whose husband died of mesothelioma, said: “This ruling at the Supreme Court is a major legal decision, which will help the families of many asbestos victims in South Tyneside and the rest of the country.
“If this decision had gone the other way, it would have simply been a victory for insurance companies.
“This should speed up the whole process of compensation for victims – it’s a great legal decision.”
Kevin Rowan, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said: “This is the best possible outcome for the thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases ever year – and their families, who have to endure the pain and suffering with them.”
Legal experts say the ruling by the UK’s highest court means that employers’ insurers will have to pay compensation claims.
Relatives of victims want to make claims on policies from the late 1940s to the late 1990s. Families started a legal fight for compensation more than five years ago, and lawyers say the Supreme Court ruling could affect thousands of claims.
They won the first round of their battle in 2008, when the High Court said firms’ insurers at the time workers inhaled asbestos fibres were those liable for damages.
But two years later the Court of Appeal said that in some cases liability was triggered when symptoms developed – sometimes decades after exposure.
Lawyers said the Appeal Court ruling had left victims’ families facing “confusion and uncertainty”.
A panel of five Supreme Court justices had heard arguments over test cases at a hearing in London in December, and delivered their judgment yesterday.